Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Solar Flares

The sun is very active right now.  Significant solar flares can have a major impact on radio communications, the electrical grid and GPS reception.  The following article is from the  "Christian Science Monitor."

The sun unleashed a powerful solar flare late Monday (Oct. 22), releasing waves of radiation into space that have already caused a short radio blackout on Earth.

The Christian Science Monitor
Weekly Digital Edition

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 22, 2012, peaking at 11:17 p.m. EDT. The flare came from an active region on the left side of the sun that has been numbered AR 1598, which has already been the source of a number of weaker flares. This flare was classified as an X.1-class flare.
The flare erupted from the sunspot AR 11598 (short for Active Region 11598), and reached peak brightness at 11:22 p.m. EDT (0322 GMT this morning, Oct. 23), according to scientists working on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a space telescope that constantly monitors the sun with high-definition cameras.

To read the rest of the article go here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Using the SPOT Satellite Messenger

Is a SPOT messenger something you should carry in the backcountry?  Is it really just for those who go deep into the wilderness?

The SPOT II messenger
SPOT is satellite messenger.  It’s a device that has the capability to receive and process Global Positioning System (GPS) data and link that information to a preloaded text or email message.  Messages sent from remote locations can provide updates to family and friends or activate an emergency SOS alert (911) response.

The manufacturer’s web site states:

 The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger provides a vital line of communication with friends and family when you want it, and emergency assistance when you need it. Using 100% satellite technology, SPOT works virtually anywhere in the world, even where cell phones don’t – all with the push of a button.”

SOS:  Use this function In the event of a life threatening or other critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location and that you need assistance. The GEOS International Emergency Response Center alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide – for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe.”

I bought my first SPOT about four years ago and then bought a second (and newer) model last summer.  The newer model is smaller, has a bit more capability and was about two thirds of the cost ($99 at Cabelas). There are many variants of locater beacons/messengers on the market today but I stayed with SPOT because of its reliability and simplicity. 

I offer a few suggestions:

·         Pick those who you would place on the contact/notification list carefully.  Ask permission to place someone on list.  Update the list before each trip.  This is especially true for those assigned to respond in an emergency; be picky.


·         If someone wants you to be on their list think that over.  Do you really want to respond to a request for help?  Will you be available?


·         Keep your emergency contact information current.



·         Provide SPOT web site user ID and password information to a family member.   Put this information on your trip plan too. (Click here for a sample trip plan.)


·         In every message option I list:


o   My cell phone number

o   My activity and general area description (e.g., hunting in the Metolius unit west of Camp Sherman)

o   Who is with me


·         In the field, activate the device in an open area away from trees and cliffs.  A clear view of the sky is the hikers best bet. 


·         If you have a notification schedule – stick to it (e.g., “I will call every night at 6:00”).


·         If you send OK/Check in messages check to ensure the designated contacts received SPOT messages.  Do this when you return home. 


·         SPOT is not limited to backcountry use only.  Take it on trips, to the shopping center and overseas.  Like a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, frequent use develops confidence and understanding.


·         The unit’s buttons are somewhat difficult to push in and activate.  That is a designed capability.  My local SAR organization was activated last spring due to an inadvertent SOS/911 alert. 


·         Keep the unit close at hand where it can be turned on quickly.


·         Lithium batteries must be used in the SPOT messenger.


I have been a satisfied user.   I take it everywhere. Do check the company’s web site occasionally at


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Story of Hunting and Hearing Loss

Todays post is by guest writter John O'Connor.  John is a father, outdoorsman and is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.   Check out his new blog at!
I come from a big family that loved different sports. My siblings and I were all involved in various activities, so it was rare that we ever got to spend quality time together. Because of that, I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with my father, especially when we would go hunting. It was like we were a two-man-team by ourselves in the woods. We had fun and we learned much about each other during those days.

We also felt we were fully prepared for our hunting trips. But were we? We had the guns, the ammunition and the high-tech gear. However, we didn't have everything we needed, such as hearing protection. Back then, we never really gave it much thought, but now we realize how important hearing protection really is.

Now, my father is in his 70s and wears a hearing aid to help him hear. Though hunting wasn't the main reason he lost his hearing, his doctor does admit that it was a major contributor. The lack of protection over a long period of time finally took its toll on my father's hearing.

We often forget to take precautions to things like hearing protection because we don't realize its importance. We protect our body because any damage to it can cause an immediate threat. Hearing loss happens overtime, so we don't keep it at the front of our mind.

The Dangers Of Firearms

The sound of a shotgun puts out around 166 decibels (DB). The average person only speaks at sounds around 50 DB. The human ear can only take loud sounds for so long before it starts losing its function.

Moreover, if you practice your aim at an indoor shooting range, the sound is amplified and bounces off the walls. This can cause even further damage to your hearing if you are not using the proper protection.


Earplugs are the standard protection for hunters. They are often made out of foam, and they block the loud sounds of a gunshot, helping reduce the amount of DBs that enter your eardrum. Earplugs are cost effective, but don't offer the greatest protection.


Earmuffs offer greater protection than earplugs, but for many hunters, they work too well. In other words, hunters usually have a hard time hearing their partners. The clamshell design blocks many frequencies of sound from entering the ear. That is why I personally use electronic earmuffs.

Electronic Earmuffs

If you are serious about hunting and your hearing, then you should absolutely invest in a pair of electronic headphones. These high-tech gadgets block the dangerous levels of DBs from entering your ears, but also amplify low levels of sound to help you hear people around you.

Your hearing is more important than you think, so take the proper precautions when you are going to engage in an activity that involves loud sounds. You don't have to sacrifice your fun, but you do have to be safe as well.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Compass Navigation - Aiming Off

Section Hiker is a blog that I follow.  The following is a post on compass navigation  whose concept is similar to my Baseline Navigation article posted earlier.

"Aiming off is a cross-country navigation technique for finding a destination like a shelter or a landmark that is located along a natural or man-made landscape feature (also called a linear feature) like a stream, a ridge, or a path."

To read the rest go here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Baseline Navigation

Baseline navigation is a simple technique that requires little practise.   Break out your map and compass and give this a try on your next outing.
Early in the morning the hunter hiked north from camp to Mahogany Butte. With an hour of light left it was time to return. He had his day pack with map and compass and he knew how to use them. But he didn’t have a GPS. The wooded terrain around him didn’t lend itself to triangulation with a compass. So what was he to do? If he was paying attention to his navigation before leaving camp at dawn he was all set. All he needed to do was to return to the base line.
Returning to a baseline is a pretty straight forward concept. The idea is that you leave camp from a known location and strike out in a specific direction such as North, or 000°. When it is time to return aim to the left or right of camp (like 165°T), hit the logging road camp is on and turn right. That is the concept but there is a bit more to it.
Let’s go over the tools you need and the process of how it works in more detail.
To learn more about baseline navigation go here.

Wool in Winter

Is wool the right material for you during winter backcountry travel?

My friend Leon has an interesting post about how well wool performs as winter wear.  Interesting too are the comments from two of his readers.

"While there are synthetic clothing options available, for my money, nothing beats wools in winter. Where I live in Central Oregon, wool is my favorite material for pants about six months out of the year. Also, the material is fire resistant, and stays warm when wet.

Wool can also be inexpensive: Last fall at the local surplus store, I got a lightweight pair of wool pants for $7.95. And once you find a good wool garment, it will last seemingly forever. My old Lands End red wool sweater has served me well for the past 20 years, and it’s still going strong."

To read the rest of Leon's post go here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

GPS Accuracy - An Update

This post is a follow on to an older article that I just "re-posted."

I'd like to add a few other considerations.

Remember, that quality and accurate navigation takes time and practice.  Just because the hunter has a GPS that might be five years old, there is no reason to think it can not provide accurate data; it can.  It just takes time.  Recently while deer hunting in Oregon's Cascades heavily timbered forest I found that my position fixes took noticeably longer to acquire than when hunting or hike the open high desert area.

I'll always take a look at my satellite information page to see how many satellites I am tracking.  Give the GPS time to do that job. 

Notice the part of the graphic to the left that  indicates     +/- 27 feet, that is the accuracy of your position data.  This information is an approximation.  If the hunter received data were to say, 150, I'd recommend remaining in position and let the GPS continue to process.  Allow this information to drop to 30 feet.

If the hunter has an older GPS and the receiver just doesn't seem to be tracking enough satellites, turn and face in a southerly direction.  The GPS constellation is roughly below 60 degrees north.  For those in the Pacific Northwest, most of the satellites will be to the south.

Back up you GPS navigation with your map and compass. Attempt to triangulate you position on the map.

GPS Accuracy

Are you comfortable with the accuracy of your GPS receiver?
by Blake Miller
The package says that your Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver is accurate to +/- 15 meters and some advertise +/- 3 meters. Just what does that mean to you?
Accuracy depends on several things, most of which are beyond your control. For example, it is reasonable to expect a new GPS with the latest antenna, circuitry, processor capability and memory technology will perform better than one made in 2005. The number of satellites signals a receiver acquires helps too; you’ll need at least four.
To read the rest of the post go here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fire Starter - Gasoline

My friend Leon has a good post and video today on starting a fire using gasoline.  Not something to be done every day, but this method has its place and it works just fine.

Check out the post here.